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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hunger Games Movie Trailer

Since IRYJ (posted below) isn't the most exciting of episodes, I thought I'd prove how wide-ranging my cultural interests are by commenting on The Hunger Games. For those who haven't read the book, that's a joke, of course -- I can't imagine the book or the movie if it hadn't been for Buffy.
Spoilers for the book below. Also, I haven't read the other two books in the trilogy, so please label any spoilers if you mention them.
Here's where I'm coming from. I'm a fan of dystopian fiction (Road Warrior, Terminator, Blade Runner, etc.), and I can see the potential here. What I think makes all these earlier films successful is the willingness to show just how gritty and horrific the situation is. They didn't pull punches when it came to bloodshed or anything else. That's the kind of movie I'd like to see with The Hunger Games, and I think there's real potential for it.
The official trailer came out last week and I assume anyone reading this has seen it. I was happy to see Jennifer Lawrence get the lead role, because after her performance in Winter's Bone it suggests they intend to make a serious movie rather than just try to make money off the popularity of the book. That said, I have some concerns about what the trailer showed.
My concern here is that they'll underplay what we see on-screen for the sake of a PG-13 rating. I understand the financial issues, but I seriously doubt the movie can show just how awful Katniss' situation is if they tone down the movie to get that rating. Let me give an example.
When she's brought to The Capitol, one of the first things that happens is that she's depilated ("all the hair on her body") and then forced to stand naked while they walk around her and decide how to dress her. While this is recited very matter-of-factly in the book, it's horrifying if you think about it: she's totally objectified by this process, which seems designed to humiliate the victims.
In the trailer there's a brief scene of the depilation, and Jennifer Lawrence is wearing a robe. Now, I think they probably can convey the horror of this process without graphic nudity, but I think it's an important scene and IMO they need to, at the very least, convey graphic nudity so that the audience understands that something awful is happening. Just getting a leg wax won't convey that.
The trailer didn't show much from the Arena scenes so I don't know have any clue what the plan is there. Again IMO, the bloodshed and suffering in the Arena needs to be ugly and, well, bloody. The Capitol is forcing children to murder other children. That simply can't be understated if the message is to get across.
Thoughts, anyone?


  1. I must unfortunately agree with you that they will play down the violence and horror of the Games in favour of a PG-13 rating. The book series, after all, is nominally aimed at Young Adults, despite working quite well for older audiences. I only caught the teaser trailer for the movie so far, and from what I saw (a short scene of her in the Arena, and some fireballs being launched), it looked like they were definitely going the way of the young adult movie adaptation.

    Let's look at two other movie adaptations here. The first is another young-adult series, The Golden Compass (or His Dark Materials, rather).

    The 2007 movie adaption greatly downplays the important interactions between the church and the people, such as the Gyptians and Lord Asriel. The ending of the book is also extremely truncated, removing the true endgame of the story where Lord Asriel breaks through the dimensional rift, beginning his journey to end the tyranny of God and the Church in all dimensions. Pullman's novels are notably anti-church and organised religion in general, but a PG-13 rating and a family friendly atmosphere required this to be downplayed significantly, lest the Catholic Church protests affect profits. This sort of situation is what I fear will remove the stark, adrenaline-fueled contest in the Arena.

    A further example of why they won't take it far enough would be Battle Royale and its film adaptation, an obvious inspiration for the book. Battle Royale features a similar combat between young children, forced to fight as a method of government control in Japan. The main distinction between the books is the lack of reward and publicity of the Battle Royale program, and the setting (modern-day Japan vs futuristic dystopic America). Battle Royale received massive controversy from the day of the book release, including links to school shootings and other violent killings by adolescents. More importantly, the film adaptation, considered a top film of the Japanese industry, still has never found a distributor willing to release it in America. With that sort of precedent, can the Hunger Games, being made in capitalist America where profits are key, afford to portray the violence effectively?

    An important point to note here is that both of these franchises I listed, and the one at hand in your post here, deal with adolescents. The other movies you mentioned above, all fine films in their own rights, are both R-rated, and deal with only adults. The adolescent age of the characters is, in my opinion, most likely the problem at hand.

  2. Your point about the age of the characters is a good one, especially for the depilation scene. That wouldn't necessarily rule out much grittier scenes in the Arena, American audiences being much more tolerant of violence than any hint of sex. I'd guess, though, that the more likely result will be that the character ages will cause them to market the movie to viewers of that age.

  3. I thought the trailer was great, it had my heart pounding as they did the countdown.

    Seeing Rue broke my heart all over again.

    I think Josh Hutcherson was a great choice for Peeta, he does that earnest thing real well.

    I don't really know if what they put in the trailer is a good indicator of what is in the movie. Trailers are designed to either A) appeal to broad audience or B) appeal to the dedicated fan base who will spread the word of mouth.

    I definitely think this trailer is B, and so is hitting the high points, the Reaping, train ride, the Capitol, the Girl on Fire costume, interview dress, meeting with Cinna and the countdown in the Arena.

    There will probably be another trailer release that will show a little more graphic detail.

    I won't discuss the next books, but they are as heart wrenching and as heart pounding as the first. Get your butt to the book store!!!!

  4. OMG!! Is your heart racing yet? You should definitely post a discussion thread when you're done!

  5. Yep. I had guessed the basic problem she'd face, but I'm loving the details so far.

    I will put up a thread for it.